Helpful Ordering Friends


I’d venture to say that if there’s one thing that all vegetarians and vegans have in common, whether they’ve been meatless for six days or six years, is the Helpful Ordering Friend (heretofore, HOF). You know, the person who you’ll go out to lunch with and they’ll try to help you find “something you can eat” before they even consider their own food. And it’s not always a friend, sometimes it’s a family member.

What’s difficult about this social situation is that the intentions of the HOF are noble and positive: they want to make sure that you, the vegetarian with an oh-so-limited choice of food, has something to eat at the restaurant of choice. It’s a nice gesture and should be appreciated. The thing is, after the tenth time it’s happened, it gets a little annoying.

How does one politely deflect an HOF’s assistance? I usually opt for the simple, “Thanks… I’m sure I can find something.” If they persist, I’ll ask back, “So, what are you going to have? Find anything good?”

To all potential HOFs: thanks for the concern. We appreciate it. We really do. But let us worry about digging through the menu and asking questions of the waiter. We’ll take care of it. Really and truly.

16 Responses to “Helpful Ordering Friends”

  1. Cat

    Uh oh.

    Okay, I’ll stop.

  2. char

    I’ll usually go to a Vegan restaraunt and then I ‘ll find something to eat to keep from making my Vegan friends feel like they have a disease or something, because obviously they don’t I just tend to be overhelpful to them.

  3. Meredith

    Hallelujah! My recent vacation with family was full of HOF’ing on the part of my in-laws. It drove me up the wall! As a vegan, you probably get it more than I do as an ovo-lacto. But damn, I know what you’re talking about. Thanks for the concern, but I can read the menu myself! Oh, especially annoying is when somebody, while engaging in HOF activity by looking over the menu on my behalf instead of hurrying up and picking their own entree, asks do you eat fish? Let me read the menu, please. I know how to read and I also know what I eat. The only time I might need help is at a buffet, where I’m not exactly sure what everything is. But if it’s just words on a page, I can get along just fine, thanks.

  4. sennoma

    Okay, I’ll stop.

    Not on my account. It doesn’t bother me at all.

    If people want to be helpful, that’s great; if they’re not actually helping, I’ll just say “gimme a minute, I’m used to doing this, I’ll find something”. I fail to see what’s to be pissed off about.

  5. Nic

    Guilty as charged. I know I do this whenever I am worried that someone won’t be able to find something they’ll like on the menu, veggie or otherwise. I do make a mental note never to do it if someone gets annoyed with me, though.

  6. Ryan

    I’ll just say “gimme a minute, I’m used to doing this, I’ll find something”

    That’s a good response, too.

  7. Ryan

    Here’s something I wrote in my e-mail to Cat that I probably should have also written in the original post:

    It’s not one of those things that pisses me off — it’s just an observation. You generally won’t find people doing the same thing for someone that’s, say, diabetic or allergic to wheat. People will assume that they know what to look for and what to watch out for, but for some reason that often doesn’t extend to vegetarians.

  8. Extagen

    Nice blog. It’s not just being a vegetarian. I too have a problem because I am dieting. For me to lose weight I have to eat almost nothing! Yet I still enjoy dining out for the social atmosphere. Unfortunately I can’t tell you the number of times people “twist my arm” to try to eat something that is not on my diet!

    Since watching closely what I eat I have more energy and stamina. I feel so much better. I sleep better. My blood pressure has dropped. My stomach ailments have all but gone…..yet inspite of this my friends keep encouraging me to eat the foods I know I can’t. Why do they do this? Why can’t they just appreciate my company? Why is it so important to them to eat the same stuff they are eating?

  9. Amber

    after years and years of this, I too agree that it can be a touch annoying. A lovely gesture, but I’m a big girl now and I can manage.

    I find that it usually starts with “oh, I’m not sure such-and-such restaurant has anything you can eat” and my response is always not to worry about me, there is always something for the vegetarian, and if there isn’t, I ask the cook to make me something! You’d be surprised with how often a cook gets giddy to make something out of the ordinary.

    Nice blog! :)

  10. Isa

    Wow, no I feel bad. I’ve never had a HOF!

  11. Shananigans

    Thank god Im not the only one. My boyfriends mother has a tendency to do this. I know she means well and is trying to be helpful, but I am a big girl and can read a menu all by myself thank you very much. I think the other reason it bothers me is because the suggestions are usually made with a certain about of pity implied in the tone. Like Oh, theres so little you can eat. Poor you. Not eating meat is a choice that Im very happy with, its not like I have a disease, sheesh.

  12. Henry

    No one has ever done that for me :(

    I must have selfish friends.

  13. Meg

    quote: You’d be surprised with how often a cook gets giddy to make something out of the ordinary.

    Wow. You should read the Food Whore ( for her take on that – she gets quite colorful when describing her attitude to people who want modifications on the menu. Then again, maybe she’d be more patient if it had a dietary reason instead of just wanting to get the lobster dish on the cheap!

  14. Ryan

    I’ve always been interested in hearing a chef’s take on that, Meg. I know every “guide to being vegetarian” I’ve ever read describes chefs and anxious and willing to cater to your every whim, but it seems to me that may not be the case.

    Now, while I had a good experience like that, I’ve also read twits like Anthony Bourdain referring to vegans as “a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn.”

    I’d imagine most chefs are somewhere in between.

  15. simer

    I do that too and it is not out of pity or anything. I guess these kind of suggestions always come around amongst friends whether u r vegan or,” hey i tried this new restaurant, pretty good u shuld check it out.” or i have tried this new dish at this place,taste good,give it a try.”so making it an issue for vegan ppl we r simply catagorizing them and making it a big deal. Amongest friends i don’t think there are any obligations u like some suggestion u take it if not it is not end of the world.

  16. Jeannette

    I’d rather have an HOF than what I have now, which is a bunch of people telling me I HAVE to eat meat or I won’t get enough protien, and I’d better watch it b/c I’ll get sick, yada yada yada.

    I’ve not had milk since Kindergarten (I’m 26) and no one has ever complained that I don’t get enough calcium (I generally don’t eat much dairy).


    I wish people would just leave me alone about it!

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